Cross-talk of NO, superoxide and molecular oxygen, a majesty of aerobic life

Free Radic Res. 1999 Oct;31(4):251-60. doi: 10.1080/10715769900300831.


Because nitric oxide (NO) reacts with various molecules, such as hemeproteins, superoxide and thiols including glutathione (GSH) and cysteine residues in proteins, biological effects and metabolic fate of this gaseous radical are affected by these reactants. Although the lifetime of NO is short particularly under air atmospheric conditions (where the oxygen tension is unphysiologically high), it increases significantly under physiologically low oxygen concentrations. Because oxygen tensions in human body differ from one tissue to another and change depending on their metabolism, biological activity of NO in various tissues might be affected by local oxygen tensions. To elucidate the role of NO and related radicals in the regulation of circulation and energy metabolism, their effects on arterial resistance and energy metabolism in mitochondria, mammalian cells and enteric bacteria were studied under different oxygen tensions. Kinetic analysis revealed that NO-dependent generation of cGMP in resistance arteries and their relaxation were strongly enhanced by lowering oxygen tensions in the medium. NO reversibly suppressed the respiration and ATP synthesis of isolated mitochondria and intact cells particularly under low oxygen tensions. Kinetic analysis revealed that cross-talk between NO and superoxide generated in and around endothelial cells regulates arterial resistance particularly under physiologically low oxygen tensions. NO also inhibited the respiration and ATP synthesis of E. coli particularly under low oxygen tensions. Because concentrations of NO and H+ in gastric juice are high, most ingested bacteria are effectively killed in the stomach. However, the inhibitory effects of NO on the respiration and ATP synthesis of H. pylori are extremely small. Kinetic analysis revealed that H. pylori generates the superoxide radical thereby inhibiting the bactericidal action of NO in gastric juice. Based on such observations, critical roles of the cross-talk of NO, superoxide and molecular oxygen in the regulation of energy metabolism and survival of aerobic and microaerophilic organisms are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Oxygen / physiology*
  • Superoxides / metabolism*


  • Superoxides
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Oxygen